Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Cashing in on the Colosseum Volume 55 Number 2, March/April 2002
by Jarrett A. lobell

A controversial plan to privatize management of Rome's Colosseum and the Pompeii archaeological site has now become law. Devised by Italy's minister of culture, Giuliano Urbani, the plan offers five-year contracts to private companies to manage the sites in exchange for donating a portion of their profits to the state. Urbani claims that competitive market forces will end neglect, bureaucratic indifference, and poor management at these popular sites.

The plan has been widely criticized by current and former directors of 37 of the world's leading museums, including London's National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Louvre. They argue that the cultural heritage of Europe belongs to the nation states and must be maintained and preserved by scientists, conservationists, and museum directors employed by the state, not by private companies who will profit from its management. It remains to be seen to what extent the experience of the visitor to some of Italy's best-loved sites will change. Will there one day be golden arches atop the Porta Marina, the entrance to ancient Pompeii?

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America